Thursday, February 5, 2009

More reading questions

Flitterman-Lewis’s explanation of how psychoanalysis can be a useful approach in film studies gives us some plausible understandings about the internal relationship between film texts and spectators. Based on the earlier film and psychoanalysis scholars, she tries to understand how film, or watching a film, is working like a dreaming to serve a place where the unconscious comes into play. She then, as Baudry theorized, talks about the conditions of film projection that are what watching film is similar to a process of dreaming, including the darkness and immobility. This is, however, based on the traditional way of watching movies. Let’s think about today’s media circumstances. More people watch films on DVD and through other devices like the internet. They do things, like eating and talking to others, while watching movies. How do these different media environments affect the relationship that spectators have with films? How do changes on external factors in the media influence the theories of the relationship between psychoanalysis and film/TV studies?

Mulvey’s article is particularly interesting in that it explains in what sense female viewers are passive and male are active in searching for pleasure in looking in a patriarchal society. She argues that the women displayed in films often become objects of the combined gaze of spectator and the male protagonists.” (64) Spectators possess the power of the male protagonists through identification with them. The unbalanced power structure between male and female is exposed in that glamorous male stars are often characterized as more perfect, more complete, and more powerful ideal ego instead of the erotic object of the sexual gaze as women are projected. However, since the movies that Mulvey examines are male-centered, her explanations would be perhaps limited. How are the male gazes projected in what is so called “chick films” or movies that focus on women? Let’s think about Sex and the City for a minute. Samanda’s handsome boyfriend Smith often becomes a sexual object for females (women are projected as sexual objects too in many cases in the show). Although Mulvey left a space for those types of movies and shows because of the page limit, we may want to think about how similarly or differently voyeurism, or any other types of psychoanalytic terms, is working in female-centered movies in comparison with the movies that Mulvey examines.

All the three readings this week were helpful for me to know how psychoanalysis can be a useful method to understand the mechanism of how people get pleasure from popular media. Especially, Modleski’s book gives us the dynamics of which women interact with popular media. However, I think I have a problem with the method that she uses in analyzing the interactions of women with the media. Although she mentions the criticisms on her book – method, in particular – and advocates psychoanalytic method which gives us an opportunity to see the unconscious of women viewers and readers, I still have a suspicion about if the method fully can tell about how women consume the media. Without actually getting in their head, how can a person know what others unconsciously think? Modleski says that her analysis is a practice of reading texts “symptomatically.” (xix) Then she goes to question how ethnographers could analyze readers’ symptoms. But, how can a person study the symptoms of readers or viewers without actually interacting with them? In other words, without observing how readers or viewers react and understand the media, is it possible to know what their symptoms are and what those mean (Modleski barely observes how readers and viewers understand the books and shows)?

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